TOPEKA, Kan. — Transgender rights activists in Kansas are moving forward with plans to make Lawrence, a political “blue dot” in a sea of red, a sanctuary city for transgender and nonbinary people.
This comes as a new controversial Kansas law defining biological sex, in areas like restrooms and locker rooms, is less than a month away from going into effect.
FOX4’s Kansas Capitol Bureau spoke with Justin Brace, executive director of Transgender Kansas, about the proposal. Brace presented legislation to Lawrence City Commissioners on Wednesday morning.
“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to set up physical meetings, get the item on the agenda, and hopefully move forward with this piece of legislation soon, not just in Lawrence, but everywhere,” Brace said.
Brace said that the group has been in contact with other cities as well to move toward becoming sanctuary cities. That includes Topeka, Wichita, Olathe, Overland Park, Manhattan and Emporia.
The goal is for cities to enact the policy before Senate Bill 180, which opponents have called the “bathroom bill,” goes into effect on July 1.
Things are moving quickly with Lawrence city officials, according to Brace. If the city adopts the policy in the coming weeks, it would be the first city in the state to make that move.
Some commissioners also appear to be receptive to the proposal.
In an interview Wednesday, Commissioner Amber Sellers said the body seemed “open” to having a discussion about the proposal.
“If we are truly intentional about doing this work and we truly believe that we want to make Lawrence a sanctuary city for our trans brothers and sisters, then we can get it done in no time,” Sellers said.
It will be up to commissioners to decide whether to adopt the policy or not. However, the looming timeline of when the new law is set to go into effect could also propel conversations in the coming weeks.
State officials said it’s unclear how the law will be enforced. Still, it’s sparked outrage from transgender rights activists in the community, who argue that the law could prevent them from using public spaces that align with their gender identity.
Sylvie Althoff, a member of local activist group “No SB 180 in Lawrence,” was one of several community members, who voiced concerns about the law during a Commission meeting Tuesday night.
“We need more than just positive intentions…we need actual action,” Althoff said. “With the passage of SB 180, our basic participation in public life is going to be criminalized…that every time we use a public restroom or changing room, we’re going to be subject to harassment.”
The Kansas Capitol Bureau spoke with supporters of the upcoming law last month, who argue that it provides a set of definitions.
“Alright, well we passed this statute, it says that the female locker room for junior high students is females…someone can’t come in later and say and say, ‘oh, females… that means men who identify as women,’ well no… female under Kansas law means female, so it gives the Kansas people a set of definitions,” said May Mailman, a representative for Independent Women’s Voice.